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Kate Harrison

A 2012 report from eMarketer found that 82% of consumers trust a company more — and 77 % are more likely to buy from a company — if the founder uses social media. Whether for a social profile or your company’s website, the quality and style of your headshot conveys a lot about you as a person and signals how you conduct business. An outdoor shot in casual attire conveys a very different sense than a portrait in a business suit against a solid color backdrop. The type of photo that’s right for your business is a branding decision, but regardless of the business you are in, a blurry or poorly cropped picture conveys a sense a sloppiness and a lack of attention to detail that carries over to your organization’s reputation.

It can be hard to carve out the time needed to take a quality headshot, but it should be on every founder’s top “to-do” list. A good portrait photographer can work with you to get the perfect shot and guarantee that you will finish the session with high quality results you can use in a wide variety of sizes and formats moving forward.

Mark Liflander, Co-Owner and Principal Photographer at LJ Studios Photography in Harrison, NY, has a background in education and offers classes in his studio on everything from Photography Basics to Image Management. He recently ran a headshot event for members of the Specialty Advertising Association of New York and shared his top tips with Forbes for creating the best headshot results every time. Here are his five top tips for taking your headshot “UP” a notch:

  1. Stay UP-To-Date.

Aging is hard, especially as most American adults gain about a pound a year, or 35 additional pounds by age 60. However, Liflander notes, “It is still important to have a recent photo for social media and press use. While you might be tempted to use a thirty-something photo of yourself in social media or on your website, what happens when you meet a client face-to-face and they discover you are 52 and not 32?”

If the prospect of sharing a picture of your current self scares you, Liflander adds that there is nothing wrong with getting a little “brush up” using Photoshop. “A professional photographer will use some Photoshop magic, but they know how to apply just the right amount. It’s a good idea to maintain a recent headshot, no older than 3-4 years, and fully embrace your ‘now-is-my-best-age’ self.”

  1. Posture UP

If you are one of the 32+ million people who have seen Amy Cuddy’s TedTalk on body language, you know that posture shapes how you appear to a great extent. To get a first class headshot, Liflander advises that you “stand or sit up tall to project confidence and professionalism.” This is where having a good portrait photographer is key. “A professional photographer is like a film director, who guides your posing, head position, and expressions to bring out your best. Trust them — and believe in yourself.”

Liflander also notes that getting outside might make the difference between looking like a pro rather than an awkward teenager at a wedding. “Sometimes it’s easier to look confident and professional in an environmental portrait that relates to your business. The environmental portrait shows you in your element, perhaps at your desk or in front of your building. We have one client who posed in front of his construction project. His pride and joy were evident, and came out naturally in the photograph when he stood next to the building he helped to build.”

  1. Measure UP

Liflander asks his client’s a simple question: Do you want to fit the mold, or break it? “Do you want to ‘measure up’ to the competition, or surpass them? We have a client, Ira, who is a corporate lawyer. We photographed him in business casual attire at a local train station (see photo). Now he gets compliments on his social media profile photo all the time from his clients and other lawyers, who notice how relaxed and friendly he looks in the portrait. We also do many real estate and financial firm headshots where the client needs a simple business “uniform” photo with their colleagues, set against a basic white backdrop. It’s up to you! The pre photo-shoot consultation with your photographer is the time to discuss the image you want to portray, and how you want to achieve it. A professional photographer will help you with tips about the right clothing, expressions, body language, etc. to help you ‘measure up’ to your objectives.”

  1. Look UP

This might seem obvious, but Liflander says it’s not. “Literally, look up and make eye contact with the camera!” he implores. “It’s as if you are looking at a client standing directly in front of you. This will help ease camera shyness, and promote a genuine expression.” He says “look up” can have another meaning that is equally important because in relating to others, we usually look up to convey a positive, friendly demeanor. Think about how you define yourself in business. What image do you want to project? Are you knowledgeable, dynamic, trustworthy, successful? Take the opportunity to discuss your self-perception with your photographer in the pre-shoot consultation so they can bring out your most important characteristics during the shoot.”

  1. Pay UP

While it might be tempting to ask a friend with a cell phone to take your headshot, this is one area where you usually get what you pay for. “Don’t damage your professional image with an amateur headshot. Save yourself money and aggravation in the long run by doing it right the first time. Using a professional photographer is a bargain compared to the value you get — not to mention the real harm a bad or even not very good photograph can do to your image.”

When you consider that your professional headshot can be repurposed for social media profiles, your web site, and a myriad of printed marketing materials, it really is a bargain — and it takes very little time. “Our clients are in and out of the studio within 30 minutes to an hour —shoot done, shots edited, professional headshot chosen,” Liflander explains. He urges clients to consider getting consistent headshots for the whole team so company branding is constant from person to person and across all collateral material. “We strive to be the go-to photographers for all of our corporate clients’ needs, including editorial shots, annual reports, web site imagery and corporate events. Building a strong relationship with your photographer can help you rebrand the professional optics of your company in a dynamic and positive way.”

So take a look at your current headshot. Is it doing you and your company justice? If not, it’s time to fire it and get the job done right.

@kate_l_harrison is a branding and marketing consultant specializing in nonprofits and sustainable businesses (

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